Curiosity-driven research leads to award-winning discoveries

May 4, 2014

Researchers should continue to explore offhand leads or spur-of-the-moment ideas, said 2005 Nobel laureate Barry Marshall, FRACP, FRS, FAA. These very actions have sometimes led to world-changing, award-winning research.

Orlando-Researchers should continue to explore offhand leads or spur-of-the-moment ideas, said 2005 Nobel laureate Barry Marshall, FRACP, FRS, FAA. These very actions have sometimes led to world-changing, award-winning research.

“Curiosity-driven research is where we want to be . . . including free thinking and following up on any kind of leads,” said Dr. Marshall, with the University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia.

Dr. Marshall delivered the opening keynote address-“How curiosity-driven research can lead to the Nobel Prize”-during Sunday’s ARVO/Alcon Keynote Series. Dr. Marshall discussed the path to his and J. Robin Warren’s discovery of Helicobacter pylori and its role in peptic ulcer disease.

 

He also discussed how offhand research done by other Nobel laureates-including Albert Einstein-led them to be honored later for their accomplishment.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Drs. Marshall and Warren began to notice that there was a certain kind of bacteria present in a variety of stomach biopsies. There were also signs of inflammation when the bacteria were found. They began to research the bacteria and how it could survive in the stomach’s acidic environment.

Dr. Marshall said they used endoscopic technology to study the cultures, even though endoscopy was at that time new and used primarily in clinical settings.

 

The findings on H. pylori helped change the perception of peptic ulcer disease from its association with stress, alcohol, and genetics to the new knowledge that it was infectious and required antibiotics when symptoms emerged.

Dr. Marshall also noted that many new discoveries in science and medicine are blocked by what’s been called “the danger of the illusion of knowledge”-believing that you know how something works and not being open to new knowledge in that realm.

For more articles in this issue of Ophthalmology Times’ Conference Brief, click here.